2/04/2011

Winter Weather and the Past


Every time we have unusual winter happenings, my mind drifts back to the Ingalls family and The Long Winter. Blizzards that shut down the trains. Burning hay when the coal ran out. Grinding wheat in the coffee grinder to make small loaves of bread. Going to bed early and getting up late because they’re wasn’t much else to do. It always makes me thankful I live now, not then.

But the weather incident of the past few days has taken my thoughts in different historical directions. Before the days of TV—or radio--in the days before meteorologists made their findings known to us, how did Texas people cope with such an unusual onslaught? Think about our most recent scenario.

Sunday, January 30. Almost 80 degrees. Spring weather. Not terribly unusual, but definitely welcome. But a hundred years ago, no one warning of a coming cold—with ice and snow. No one encouraging them to stock up the pantry and turn up the heater.

Monday, January 31. More normal temperatures of 50s-60s. Back to “winter” for Texas. But our ancestors went through their day without the warnings of coming sleet, freezing rain, plummeting temperatures.

In the middle of the night, rain and thunder. In the days before media, I’d imagine those who woke to the thud of rain turned over with the thought of cooler temperatures on the way. But can you imagine their surprise at the tink of sleet against glass? The white covering the ground as day dawned with icy temperatures and biting wind.

What if all the canned goods were still in the cellar? What if your neighbors had gone visiting and asked you to milk their cow—at their farm? And they couldn’t get back for several days? And you had no telephone to call and find out their plans? And what if you were low on firewood or coal because you had no warning? A trip to the outhouse would be fun, wouldn’t it? Or dealing with chamber pots if you chose not to?

Yes, those are the things I thought of as my kids stayed home from school day after day, as my husband built a fire that I was thankful didn’t comprise my only source of heat. As we come out on the other end of this event and get back to our “regular” lives, I reflect on those that came before. But while I love to venture to that past in my reading and my writing, I’m very, very glad I live in the now!

What kinds of events make you wonder about life in the past? How far back does your imagination usually take you? Do you think about things you’ve read in regard to those events or do you wonder about the things you never read about?

3 comments:

C. Alvarez said...

Honestly, the more I struggle with paying ever rising bills, I sit and try to think of ways I can simply shut everything down. I guess if I made good money I wouldn't, but considering I have yet to find a good paying job and it's been more than 3 years, desperation makes you try to think of alternative ways to survive. The difficulty becomes, how do you do this, when you live in an apartment, and it's not like you can just build a fire in the middle of the living room to cook on.

Catherine West said...

Ew. I'm glad I live in the now too! I hate the cold and can't imagine what it would be like to have to stay by a fire to keep warm, and chop wood for it too! And chamber pots? No.

Anne Mateer said...

I'm so sorry, C. It is definitely frustrating that sometimes it is impossible to go back to the way things used to be. I'm praying the Lord's provision for you!

Yes, Cathy, as much as I love history, I know too much about life in the past to want to live there permanently!